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Crash Forensics performs complete analysis of truck driver's compliance with truck driving standards. The unique aspects of driving large trucks require that special considerations be made when analyzing these crashes. Some of these factors are explained below. Link to our truck safety expert.

Truck Driving Standards Explained
Several trucking industry documents establish what are safe truck driving techniques. These driving techniques are the minimum standard of care for the safe operation of a truck. These standards were established in order to control the hazards unique to driving large trucks, such as longer stopping distances, reduced visibility, difficulty turning, etc. These standards were also established because of the dramatically increased risk of injury and death to the occupants of any passenger vehicle impacted by a much larger truck.

The basic premise of these truck driving standards is that a truck driver should drive proactively (defensive driving) and do everything reasonable that he can to avoid situations that could result in a collision. Stated differently, a truck driver should be "driving to save lives, time and money in spite of the conditions around you and the actions of others". These truck driving techniques teach truck drivers to recognize potential roadway and traffic hazards before they become an emergency. Once a potential hazard is recognized, drivers are instructed to take necessary precautions such as reducing their speed, changing lanes, covering their brakes, etc. These potential hazards are situations that may or may not develop into an emergency. However, the driver is instructed to assume all these situations can become an emergency and implement a plan to prevent them from becoming an emergency. One specific text instructs drivers how to recognize potential hazards by saying "simply recognizing a hazard is not sufficient. Once you spot a hazard you must understand what to do about it by anticipating what probably will happen and deciding what to do to avoid a collision".

One important document that establishes these proactive driving standards for truck drivers is the part of the Code of Federal Regulations Title 49 (CFR49) commonly known as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations or FMCSR. The FMCSR is made up of many topics for drivers with a Commercial Driver's License (CDL), but our discussion here will focus on the knowledge requirements of truck drivers. The FMCSR states "All drivers of commercial motor vehicles shall have knowledge and skills necessary to operate commercial motor vehicles safely." The FMCSR §383.111 requires drivers to have knowledge of its specific listed areas, many of which are proactive driving topics.

The CDL Manual is another important document that establishes these proactive driving standards as the safe operating standards for trucks. The CDL manual was created in order to teach truck drivers the knowledge requirements of the FMCSR. The model CDL Manual is produced by the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA). According to the AAMVA, every state has adopted the AAMVA CDL Manual. From state to state, the only difference we have found in the CDL manuals is the state-specific cover pages and an introduction section that sometimes contains state- specific items such as size and weight restrictions.

The knowledge topics listed in the FMCSR §383.111 are all incorporated into the CDL Manual. Therefore, the information in the CDL manual is required knowledge of a person with a CDL. The following list shows the relationship of §383.111 to the CDL Manual.

FMCSR § 383.111 Topics CDL Manual Topics
Basic control 2.2 Basic Control of Your Vehicle
Shifting 2.3 Shifting Gears
Backing 2.2 Backing Safely
Visual search 2.4 Seeing
Communication 2.5 Communicating
Speed Management 2.6 Controlling Speed
Space Management 2.7 Managing Space
Night operation 2.8 Driving at Night
Extreme driving conditions 2.9 Driving in Winter
2.10 Driving in Fog
2.11 Driving in Very Hot Weather
2.12 Railroad Crossings
2.13 Mountain Driving
Hazard perceptions 2.14 Seeing Hazards
Emergency maneuvers 2.15 Emergencies
Skid control and recovery 2.16 Skid Control and Recovery
Relationship of cargo to vehicle control 3.0 Transporting Cargo Safely
Vehicle inspections 2.1 Vehicle Inspection
Hazardous materials knowledge 2.20 Hazardous Materials Rules
Air brake knowledge 5.0 Air Brakes
Coupling and uncoupling 6.3 Coupling and Uncoupling

The proactive driving standards are taught throughout the CDL manual but are detailed in Sections 2.4 Seeing, 2.5 Communicating, 2.6 Controlling Speed, 2.7 Managing Space, and 2.14 Seeing Hazards.

In addition to the CDL Manual, many motor carriers use proactive driving programs such as the National Safety Council Defensive Driving Course to further train their drivers. Our understanding is that Schneider National, one of the country's largest motor carriers, has incorporated a proactive driving program, the Smith System, into their Driver Training program. Also, our understanding is that another large motor carrier, Gainey Transportation, trains all their drivers with the National Safety Council's Defensive Driving Course for Professional Truck Drivers.

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